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Q&A with choreographer HELEN SIMONEAU

Posted June 22, 2018 by in Blog

HELEN SIMONEAU, a native of Rimouski, Québec. Described as “a Choreographer-on-the-rise” with a style that is both “athletic and smooth”—Dance Magazine, Simoneau has been commissioned by The Juilliard School, Oregon Ballet Theatre, the American Dance Festival, UNC School of the Arts, UArts (PA), The Yard, Springboard Danse Montréal, and the Swiss International Coaching Project (SiWiC) in Zurich. She was a resident artist at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Bates Dance Festival and has received fellowships from The NYU Center for Ballet and the Arts, the Bogliasco Foundation, and twice from the North Carolina Arts Council. Her company Helen Simoneau Danse has been presented in Austria, Brazil, Canada, France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and has toured throughout Germany, Asia, and the United States. Notable venues that have presented her work include The Guggenheim Museum (NYC), Dance Place (DC), Joyce SoHo (NYC), Tangente (Montréal), The Aoyama Round Theatre (Tokyo), the L.I.G. Art Hall Busan (South Korea), Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out (MA), PACT-Zollverein in Essen (Germany), and Athens International Dance Festival (Greece). Her work was also presented at the 13th Internationales Solo-Tanz-Theatre Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, where she was awarded 1st place for Choreography. 

We sat down with Helen to discuss her background, process, and goals for her time with BDL. A transcript of that conversation is below.

BDL: What made you want to become a choreographer?

HS: I began dancing late and was fortunate to be accepted into a rigorous conservatory program, NCSA, which meant that I was surrounded by classmates with a lot of previous training. Composition and improvisation classes allowed me one time a day where I wasn’t behind, and even I think that not having much dance experience was good for me in my creative work. I didn’t have an idea of what dance was supposed to look like and so I was free in my choices. After I graduated, I danced for other choreographers, but always found myself most fulfilled when I was creating my own work.

BDL: What three words would you use to describe your choreographic style?

HS: Dance Magazine called it “athletic and smooth,” which fits perfectly. I would also throw in “intricate.”

BDL: What goals did you have for your time with BDL?

HS: I knew I wanted to create with the entire ensemble. My goal was to develop choreography that is rooted in patterns, intersecting bodies, and play with partnering.

BDL: When you find yourself stuck during a rehearsal, how do you get out of it?

HS: With the dancers – always the dancers. They can offer up solutions to any problem, so I rely on them. Either I express what I am trying to do, the overall idea, or I break it down into smaller tasks that they can work on to get us closer to my vision. Even though I’m in charge, I definitely don’t feel like I have to have all the answers. I have to trust the talent in the room.

BDL: What is your biggest takeaway from your time in the Lab?

HS: I was reminded that establishing the ideal conditions for dance making is as important as the making itself. Having positive ready-for-anything dancers, a beautiful large studio with plenty of natural light, and having all of of this offered every day consistently (same time, same place) was a huge gift and created an ease to the week allowing me to focus just on the choreography.

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